St. Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. “Resting in God” sounds like a great idea but it often seems we are too busy to take time to rest in God. The restlessness continues. So we try to do or schedule just a little bit more, thinking that maybe that restless feeling will go away. My experience, however, is that it never completely goes away. That restless feeling is God calling to us.
“Resting in God” is our spiritual discipline. In many ways the Season after Pentecost calls us to practice resting in God. It is the long green season in which we are to learn and grow in our discipleship. During this time God is calling us to rest in God’s presence, to experience his love, and live our Christian faith in ordinary everyday life. It is a reminder of and a time to acknowledge and experience God’s presence and God’s faithfulness in the mundane day-to-day stuff of our lives. I sometimes call it “sacred monotony.”
Resting in God does not mean that we simply sit around and do nothing. It does not necessarily mean that we have to give up our daily schedule and tasks – though some changes might be in order. Everything we do – work, study, play, errands – can be considered as prayer in the sense that what we do and who we are connects us to the reality of God.
Laundry, working, car-pooling, family obligations, cooking, shopping, paying the bills, home repairs, going to the doctor, running errands, school and studying, vacation…. You know as well as I that the list goes on and on. Our calendar says look at all we have to do. The Church offers us the Season after Pentecost and says look at all the opportunities you have to practice resting in God.
Many of the things we have on our calendar and to-do lists are the result of prior relationships and blessings. So maybe we go through our day with thanksgiving – for the food we have to cook, the clothes we have to wash, the house we have to repair, for the friends or family we are feeding, the kids we are car-pooling, and the doctors who care for us.
This is the ancient practice of mindfulness. Ordinary life becomes our prayer. Abandonment to Divine Providence (also known as The Sacrament of the Present Moment) by Jean-Pierre de Caussade and The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence are classic books teaching about this practice. As we continue in the practice of mindfulness our focus shifts from the task to be completed to the underlying blessings and relationships and we find ourselves resting in God.
Thomas Merton, a 20th century Trappist monk, explained it like this:
The requirements of a work to be done can be understood as the will of God. If I am supposed to hoe a garden or make a table, then I will be obeying God if I am true to the task to be done. To do the work carefully and well, with love and respect for the nature of my task and with due attention to its purpose, is to unite myself with God’s will in my work.